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Paul referred to himself by name as the writer of this book twice (cf. Ephesians 3:1). Even though some critics have denied the Pauline authorship of Ephesians, largely because of the vocabulary, style, and doctrine it contains, the early church accepted it without dispute. [Note: W. G. Kummel, Introduction to the New Testament, p. 357.]
"Ephesians, then, was unhesitatingly assigned to Paul from the time when the New Testament corpus began to be recognized as such in the mid-second century. Since Clement of Rome reflected its language when he wrote to Corinth in A.D. 95, it is likely that this attestation runs back to the first century." [Note: A. Skevington Wood, "Ephesians," in Ephesians-Philemon, vol. 11 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 4.]
The New Testament writers used the word "apostle" (lit. "sent one") in a general and in a particular sense. Sometimes it refers generally to anyone sent out as a representative of Jesus Christ (Acts 14:4; Acts 14:14; 2 Corinthians 8:23; Philippians 2:25). A modern equivalent would be a missionary. Usually it refers to one of the 12 apostles or Paul who saw the risen Christ, as here. The Lord Jesus commissioned and sent Paul out with the gospel message. He received his apostleship on the Damascus road because of God’s "will" or decision, not his own choosing (Acts 26:16-18).
The original recipients of this epistle were "saints" (Gr. hagiois, holy ones), people set apart by God for His use. They lived in Ephesus, the capitol of the Roman province of Asia, where Paul had ministered for three years during his third missionary journey (Acts 20:31).
The words "at Ephesus" or "in Ephesus" do not appear in three early Alexandrian (Egyptian) manuscripts. This omission has led some scholars to conclude that Paul originally sent this epistle to several undesignated local churches, probably in the province of Asia, for the recipients to circulate among them. Advocates of this view have pointed to the absence of any reference to individuals as evidence that Paul meant it to go to several churches rather than just to the Ephesian church. However it seems best to regard the Ephesian church as the original audience for the following reasons. Most ancient manuscripts do contain the words "at Ephesus" or "in Ephesus." Moreover no manuscript contains the name of any other city or even the Greek words translated "at" or "in." Furthermore all of Paul’s other inspired epistles mention the recipients.
Perhaps Paul omitted personal names of Ephesian believers because he felt no need to greet them since this letter would circulate to other churches. Another possible reason may be that if he had named believers he would have had to mention many since he knew so many in the Ephesian church.
It is quite possible that Paul intended Ephesians to be an encyclical letter. All the New Testament writings circulated among the churches, and Paul may have written Ephesians with this in view (cf. Colossians 4:16). Since Ephesus was a strategic city in both the Roman Empire and in Paul’s ministry, it would have been natural for him to send this letter to that city first.
Not all saints are "faithful" (2 Timothy 2:13), but the Ephesian believers were. They had been holding fast to the teaching they had received when Paul wrote this epistle (cf. Acts 20:28-32; Revelation 2:1-7).
"In Christ" describes all who are saints. Every believer occupies a location in space. These saints were in Ephesus. However every Christian saint also lives within the sphere of God’s family because of Jesus’ saving work, which Paul spoke of as being "in Christ." This phrase was a favorite of Paul’s. He used it nine times in Ephesians 1:1-14 and about 27 times in this epistle. It occurs approximately 130 times in the New Testament. Much of what follows in chapters 1-3 is an explanation of what it means to be "in Christ."
"Thus our being in Christ means that the Lord Jesus surrounds and embraces the believer in His own life, and separates him at the same time from all outside and hostile influences. He protects the believer from all perils and foes, and supplies him with all that is necessary. In Ephesians the meaning of this being ’in Christ’ reaches its highest thought. The peculiar truth in Ephesians is the heavenly nature and divine fullness of this sphere of our new life." [Note: August Van Ryn, Ephesians: The Glory of His Grace, p. 17. See also A. J. M. Wedderburn, "Some Observations on Paul’s Use of the Phrases ’In Christ’ and ’With Christ’," Journal for the Study of the New Testament 25 (October 1985):83-97.]
"That phrase in Christ strikes the keynote of the entire Epistle; from that prolific germ ramifies the branching oak of the forest." [Note: E. K. Simpson, Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians, in Commentary on the Epistles to the Ephesians and the Colossians, p. 24.]
I. SALUTATION 1:1-2
In most of his epistles Paul began by setting forth foundational truth and then concluded by applying that truth to the lives of his readers. This pattern is very obvious in Ephesians where the first three chapters deal with doctrine (teaching) and the last three with practice (application). Of course, there is some doctrine in the last three chapters and some application in the first three, but generally this is how Paul organized his material. Compare the Book of Romans in which chapters 1-11 contain mainly doctrine and chapters 12-16 mostly practice.
The salutation contains Paul’s introduction of himself to the original recipients of this letter and his greeting to them.
Paul greeted his readers by wishing God’s grace and peace on them, as he did in all of his other epistles. Grace (Gr. charis) expresses God’s unmerited favor and divine enablement, which are the portion of every saint. Peace (Gr. eirene, which translates the Hebrew shalom) is our condition resulting from God’s grace to us. We have peace with God and we can experience the peace of God, the fullness of His blessing, because of His grace (cf. Numbers 6:25-26).
"So if we want a concise summary of the good news which the whole letter announces, we could not find a better one than the three monosyllables ’peace through grace’." [Note: Stott, p. 28.]
The believer’s position in Christ 1:3
"This verse marks not only the introduction but also the main sentence of the eulogy. It is in essence a summary of the whole eulogy." [Note: Hoehner, p. 162.]
God is blessed because He has blessed believers. However, Christians should also bless or praise (Gr. eulogetos, speak well of) God the Father for bestowing these blessings. Paul was thinking of God as both the Father of believers (Ephesians 1:2) and the Father of His Son (Ephesians 1:3). God has already blessed believers in the ways the apostle proceeded to identify. This blessing happened before creation, as will become evident in the following verses. "Spiritual" blessings are benefits that relate to our spiritual life in contrast to our physical life. In Israel God’s promised blessings were mainly physical, but in the church they are mainly spiritual. Since God has already given us these things, we do not need to ask for them but should appropriate them by faith and give thanks for them.
"When you were born again into God’s family, you were born rich." [Note: Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, 2:9.]
"In the heavenly places" or "realms" refers to the location from which these blessings come. The heavenly realms are where Paul spoke of the believer as being presently in his or her spiritual life. Whereas physically we are on the earth, spiritually we are already with Christ in the heavens (cf. Ephesians 1:20; Ephesians 2:6; Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 6:12). God has united us with Jesus Christ so we are in that sense with Him where He is now. When we die, our immaterial part will go into Christ’s presence (2 Corinthians 5:6-8). When God resurrects our bodies they will go into His presence and unite with our immaterial part. Presently our lives are already with the Lord in the heavenly realms spiritually. We are there because of our present union with Christ. We are "in Christ." The expression "in Christ" and its parallels occur 36 times in Ephesians. [Note: For a chart, see Hoehner, pp. 173-74.]
Union with Christ by saving faith places us in the heavenly realms. Ouranos (heaven or heavenly) appears in Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 3:15; Ephesians 4:10; and Ephesians 6:9, while epouanios (heaven or heavenly realms) occurs in Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 1:20; Ephesians 2:6; Ephesians 3:10; and Ephesians 6:12.
"En tois epouraniois [in the heavens or heavenlies] is the location of the current conflict in which believers participate through their presence there ’in’ Christ. But hoi epouranioi [the heavens or heavenlies] in Ephesians is primarily viewed as the location of the exalted Christ, the place where He now is and from which He exercises His universal sovereignty in the present age." [Note: W. Hall Harris, "’The Heavenlies’ Reconsidered: Ouranos and Epouranios in Ephesians," Bibliotheca Sacra 148:589 (January-March 1991):89.]
"The key thought of Ephesians is the gathering together of all things in Jesus Christ." [Note: Barclay, p. 77.]
"Ephesians 1:3 tells much about God’s blessings on believers: (a) when: eternity past; (b): with what: every spiritual [not material] blessing; (c): where: in the heavenly realms; (d): how: in Christ." [Note: Harold W. Hoehner, "Ephesians," in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, p. 616.]
"Ephesus was considered the bank of Asia. One of the seven wonders of the world, the great temple of Diana, was in Ephesus, and was not only a center for idolatrous worship, but also a depository for wealth. . . .
"Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is as carefully structured as that great temple of Diana, and it contains greater beauty and wealth!" [Note: Wiersbe, 2:10.]
A. Individual calling 1:3-2:10
Paul began the body of his letter by revealing the spiritual blessings that God has planned for believers in His Son.
"The opening section of Ephesians (Ephesians 1:3 to Ephesians 2:10), which describes the new life God has given us in Christ, divides itself naturally into two halves, the first consisting of praise and the second of prayer. In the ’praise’ half Paul blesses God that he has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3-14), while in the ’prayer’ half he asks that God will open our eyes to grasp the fullness of this blessing (Ephesians 1:15 to Ephesians 2:10)." [Note: Stott, p. 31.]
1. The purpose: glory 1:3-14
In the Greek text Ephesians 1:3-14 are one sentence. The Holy Spirit carried Paul along in his thinking as he contemplated God’s provision so that he moved quickly from one blessing to the next. It is as though he was ecstatically opening a treasure chest, lifting its jewels with his hands, letting them cascade through his fingers, and marveling briefly at them as they caught his eye.
"Each section ends with a note of praise for God (Ephesians 1:6; Ephesians 1:11; Ephesians 1:14), focusing on a different member of the Trinity. After an opening summary of all the saints’ spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3), the first section (Ephesians 1:4-6) offers up praise that the Father has chosen us in eternity past; the second section (Ephesians 1:7-11) offers up praise that the Son has redeemed us in the historical past (i.e., at the cross); the third section (Ephesians 1:12-14) offers up praise that the Holy Spirit has sealed us in our personal past, at the point of conversion." [Note: The NET Bible note on 1:3.]
"Normally, after the greeting Paul gives an introductory thanksgiving for the recipients of the letter. In this epistle he changes the order, for before he gives his thanksgiving in Ephesians 1:15-23, he has in Ephesians 1:3-14 a paean of praise for what God has done for the believer." [Note: Hoehner, p. 153.]
". . . Ephesians 1:3-14 is one of the longest psalms of the New Testament, and it is a praise psalm in its form." [Note: Darrell L. Bock, "A Theology of Paul’s Prison Epistles," in A Biblical Theology of the New Testament, p. 309. Cf. Luke 1:46-55; Luke 1:67-79.]
II. THE CHRISTIAN’S CALLING 1:3-3:21
". . . the first three chapters are one long prayer, culminating in the great doxology at the end of chapter 3. There is in fact nothing like this in all Paul’s letters. This is the language of lyrical prayer, not the language of argument, and controversy, and rebuke." [Note: William Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians, p. 76.]
The first blessing is election. God has sovereignly chosen some people for salvation (cf. Ephesians 1:11; Romans 8:30; 1 Thessalonians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Titus 1:1). Salvation is ultimately God’s doing, not man’s (Ephesians 2:8-9). Belief in divine election is probably the most fundamental tenet of Calvinistic theology. Someone who denies it is not a Calvinist. Salvation comes to the elect when they trust in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:13).
"Now everybody finds the doctrine of election difficult. ’Didn’t I choose God?’ somebody asks indignantly; to which we must answer ’Yes, indeed you did, and freely, but only because in eternity God had first chosen you.’ ’Didn’t I decide for Christ?’ asks somebody else; to which we must reply ’Yes, indeed you did, and freely, but only because in eternity God had first decided for you.’" [Note: Stott, p. 37.]
"It [election] involves a paradox that the New Testament does not seek to resolve, and that our finite minds cannot fathom. Paul emphasizes both the sovereign purpose of God and man’s free will." [Note: Francis Foulkes, The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians, p. 46.]
God chose us "in Him" (Christ, Ephesians 1:3) in the sense that He is our representative. When we trust Christ, we become a member of the redeemed race within mankind of which Jesus Christ is the Head (Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 1:22; Romans 5:12-21; Colossians 1:18). God has ordained that all the elect should be under Christ’s authority. Some interpreters have concluded that God chose Jesus and that all who believe in Him become elect by their faith. [Note: E.g., Gregory A. Boyd, God of the Possible, pp. 46-47.] However this verse states that God chose "us" to be in Christ.
"Though it is true that Christ is God’s Elect One (Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 42:6 f.; cf. Matthew 12:18) and that apart from His election there could be no realization of the election of unbelievers, His election is of a different nature. Christ was elected to be the redeemer in contrast to sinners being elected for redemption. Thus Christ’s election does not truly parallel that of Christians, and so theirs cannot be contained in His." [Note: L. J. Crawford, "Ephesians 1:3-4 and the Nature of Election," The Master’s Seminary Journal 11:1 (Spring 2000):85.]
"Here is a vast host of people hurrying down the broad road with their minds fixed upon their sins, and one stands calling attention to yonder door, the entrance into the narrow way that leads to life eternal. On it is plainly depicted the text, ’Whosoever will, let him come.’ Every man is invited, no one need hesitate. Some may say, ’Well, I may not be of the elect, and so it would be useless for me to endeavor to come, for the door will not open for me.’ But God’s invitation is absolutely sincere; it is addressed to every man, ’Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely’ (Revelation 22:17). If men refuse to come, if they pursue their own godless way down to the pit, whom can they blame but themselves for their eternal judgment? The messenger addressed himself to all, the call came to all, the door could be entered by all, but many refused to come and perished in their sins. Such men can never blame God for their eternal destruction. The door was open, the invitation was given, they refused, and He says to them sorrowfully, ’Ye will not come unto Me, that ye might have life.’ But see, as the invitation goes forth, every minute or two some one stops and says, ’What is that?’ ’The way to life,’ is the reply. ’Ah, that I might find the way to life! I have found no satisfaction in this poor world.’ We read, ’She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.’ ’I should like to know how to be free from my sin, how to be made fit for the presence of God.’ And such an one draws near and listens, and the Spirit of God impresses the message upon his heart and conscience and he says, ’I am going inside: I will accept the invitation; I will enter that door,’ and he presses his way in and it shuts behind him. As he turns about he finds written on the inside of the door the words, ’Chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.’ ’What!’ he says, ’had God His heart fixed on me before ever the world came into being?’ Yes, but he could not find it out until he got inside. You see, you can pass the door if you will, you can trample the love of God beneath your feet, you can spurn His grace if you are determined to do it, but you will go down to the pit and you will be responsible for your own doom." [Note: H. A. Ironside, In the Heavenlies, pp. 27-29.]
"The doctrine of election is never presented in Scripture as something to be afraid of, but always as something for believers to rejoice in." [Note: Alfred Martin, "The Epistle to the Ephesians," in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 1303.]
The time of our individual election was before God created the world. The purpose for which God chose us was two-fold. First, it was that we should be "holy" (Gr. hagious; cf. hagiois, "saints," Ephesians 1:1), which means different and set apart to God. [Note: See Barclay, p. 89.] Second, it was that we should be "blameless" (Gr. amomous), which means without blemish (cf. Ephesians 5:27; Philippians 2:15; Colossians 1:22; Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 1:19; 2 Peter 3:14; Revelation 14:5). This word elsewhere describes the paschal lamb and Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 1:19).
"In love" probably modifies "to be holy and blameless in His sight" rather than "He chose us" (Ephesians 1:4) or "He predestined us" (Ephesians 1:5). Normally the modifying phrases follow the action words in this context (cf. Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 1:6; Ephesians 1:8-10). Also the other occurrences of the phrase "in love" in Ephesians refer to human rather than divine love (cf. Ephesians 3:17; Ephesians 4:2; Ephesians 4:15-16; Ephesians 5:2). Furthermore love is appropriate to connect with holiness and blamelessness since it provides a balance. Our duty is to love God as well as to be pure.
"The point, then, is that holiness of life is only made perfect in and through love (cf. I Thes. iii. 12f.)." [Note: Foulkes, p. 47.]
". . . the freer the Lord’s paramount choice, the deeper the debt of the chosen to live divine." [Note: Simpson, p. 26.]
The selection of the Father 1:4-6
The spiritual blessings that have come to us are the work of all three members of the Trinity. God Himself is the basis of these blessings.
Predestination is the means by which God chose us (cf. Romans 8:30). God chose us by marking us out beforehand (the meaning of proorisas, translated "predestined"). Predestination looks more at the "how" than at the "who" of election. Election emphasizes the people and predestination the means (cf. Ephesians 1:11; Acts 4:25-28; Romans 8:29-30). God predetermined the final destiny of the elect, namely, that we would be His full-fledged sons (cf. Romans 8:15; Romans 8:23; Galatians 4:4-7). Jesus Christ was the agent who made that adoption possible by His death. Sons adopted in Roman culture received the same rights and privileges as children born into the family. Likewise our adoption does not imply an inferior status in relation to God. God predestined us to adoption because He delighted to bless us in this way.
"You do not get into God’s family by adoption. You get into His family by regeneration, the new birth (John 3:1-18; 1 Peter 1:22-25). Adoption is the act of God by which He gives His ’born ones’ an adult standing in the family. Why does He do this? So that we might immediately begin to claim our inheritance and enjoy our spiritual wealth!" [Note: Wiersbe, 2:11.]
Some Calvinistic interpreters have concluded that since God predetermined the final destiny of those He chose for salvation it is only logical that he also predetermined the damnation of the non-elect. It is therefore unnecessary, they say, for us to concern ourselves with the salvation of individuals since God has predetermined this. This view, called "double predestination," goes beyond the teaching of Scripture. The Scriptures never state that God has predetermined the fate of the non-elect. The emphasis of Scripture, on the other hand, is on the possibility, from the human viewpoint, of anyone trusting in Jesus Christ and receiving salvation (John 3:16, et al.). [Note: For four views of two Calvinists (John Feinberg and Norman Geisler) and two Arminians (Bruce Reichenbach and Clark Pinnock) on the problem of harmonizing Scriptural revelation on the subject of divine sovereignty and human freedom, see David and Randall Basinger, eds., Predestination and Free Will.]
"We should not see predestination as a grim process whereby God condemns great numbers of people to eternal loss. Rather, it is the outworking of a loving purpose whereby he delivers great numbers of people for salvation." [Note: Leon Morris, Expository Reflections on the Letter to the Ephesians, pp. 17-18.]
The ultimate goal of predestination and election is that believers will contribute to the praise of the magnificence of God’s undeserved favor that He has shown toward humankind (cf. Ephesians 1:12; Ephesians 1:14). This grace was "freely bestowed" or "given" in the sense that the elect need do nothing to merit it. It comes to us through Jesus Christ, described here as the Beloved of the Father (cf. Colossians 1:13). Since God loves His Son, believers who are in Christ can rejoice that we too are the objects of God’s love.
The "Him" in view is the beloved Son (Ephesians 1:6). God can pour out His grace on us only because of what Christ has done for us.
Redemption (Gr. apolytrosin) means release from slavery (cf. Ephesians 1:14; Ephesians 4:30; Luke 21:28; Romans 3:24; Romans 8:23; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Colossians 1:14; Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 11:35). It involves buying back and setting free by paying a ransom price. Jesus Christ has redeemed us from sin (Hebrews 9:15), namely, set us free from slavery to it (cf. Romans 6). The blood, representative of the life, of the perfect Sacrifice had to flow out of Him for this to happen (Romans 3:24-25; cf. Hebrews 9:22).
|New Testament Words for Redemption [Note: Adapted from The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, p. 153.]|
|Greek Words||English Meanings||References|
|agorazo (verb)||To buy, to purchase in the market (or slave market)||1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Corinthians 7:23; 2 Peter 2:1; Revelation 5:9; Revelation 14:3-4|
|exagorazo (verb)||To buy out, to purchase out of the market (or slave market)||Galatians 3:13; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5|
|lytron (noun)||Ransom, price of release||Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45|
|lytroomai (verb)||To ransom, to free by paying a ransom price||Luke 24:21; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:18|
|lytrosis (noun)||Act of freeing by paying a ransom price||Luke 1:68; Luke 2:38; Hebrews 9:12|
|apolytrosis (noun)||A buying back, a setting free by paying a ransom price||Luke 21:28; Romans 3:24; Romans 8:23; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 1:14; Ephesians 4:30; Colossians 1:14; Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 11:35|
The immediate result of our liberation from sin’s slavery is that God has forgiven our sins (Gr. paraptoma, false steps, transgressions).
Jesus Christ’s death accomplished our redemption. This was the extent to which God was willing to go for us. God’s grace was that great. The gift of Jesus Christ did not exhaust the supply of God’s grace, however (cf. Philippians 4:19). Rather that gift is an evidence of the extent of God’s favor to us (cf. Ephesians 1:5).
The sacrifice of the Song of Solomon 1:7-12
God has given abundant grace to us, not just the bare essential amount needed. This reference hints at many other benefits of Christ’s death that Paul did not enumerate here. Chafer discussed 33 riches of divine grace that become ours when we trust Christ as our Savior. [Note: Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, 3:234-65.]
"Wisdom" (Gr. sophia) is what is highest and noblest, and "insight" or "understanding" (Gr. phronesei) is the means by which we perceive it. [Note: Richard C. Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament, pp. 263-67.] Again we have to decide whether the last part of this verse modifies the first part of Ephesians 1:8 or the first part of Ephesians 1:9 (cf. Ephesians 1:4). As I pointed out above, normally the modifying phrases follow the action words in this passage. Paul’s idea therefore seems to have been that God lavished His grace on us in His infinite wisdom knowing how we would respond to it. The wisdom and insight are God’s, not ours.
This verse probably begins a new thought, as the NIV translators suggested by putting a period at the end of Ephesians 1:8. The New Testament uses the term "mystery" to refer to a truth previously hidden but now made known by divine revelation (cf. Matthew 13:11; Luke 8:10; Romans 11:25; Romans 16:25-26; et al.). [Note: See my note on 3:3.]
"In classical Greek the word musterion had two meanings. The root meaning was that into which one was initiated, and from this it came to mean also a secret of any kind. In the LXX it is used of what is revealed by God (e.g. Dn. ii. 19), and also of the secret that a tale-bearer tells (e.g. Ecclus. xxii. 22). Thus its Christian use is not of necessity derived from its use in the heathen mystery cults so common in New Testament days." [Note: Foulkes, p. 51.]
The mystery (lit. secret) revealed here is God’s purpose to bring everything into submission to Jesus Christ in the future (Ephesians 1:10). God’s "kind intention" (NASB) is His "good pleasure" (NIV, cf. Ephesians 1:5). "In Him" (NASB) means "in Christ" (NIV).
The Greek word translated "administration" in the NASB (oikonomia), and not translated in the NIV, means dispensation, arrangement, or administration. The main idea in this word is that of managing or administering the affairs of a household. [Note: See Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, pp. 22-47; or idem, Dispensationalism, pp. 23-43.] The Greek word translated "times" is kairos, which means particular times, rather than the passage of time (chronos). The dispensation in view is the millennial reign of Christ on earth during which everything will be under His rule (1 Corinthians 15:27; Colossians 1:20). Even though in one sense everything is under Christ’s authority now, Jesus Christ will be the head of all things in a more direct way in the messianic kingdom. Everyone and everything will acknowledge and respond to His authority then (cf. Isaiah 2:2-4; Isaiah 11:1-10).
"This verse has been used as the keystone of the doctrine of ’Universalism’, that all men shall be saved in the end. It does imply that in the end everything and every being in existence will be under His authority, but it is dangerous to press a doctrine from a verse without regard for the balance of the evidence of Scripture as a whole, and, in this case, without respect for the solemn presentation from one end of Scripture to the other of the alternatives of life and death dependent on the acceptance or rejection of God’s salvation." [Note: Foulkes, p. 53.]
"In Him" (Ephesians 1:10) probably begins the thought continued in this verse, as the NIV indicates.
For the first time in this epistle Paul made a distinction among believers. Until now he spoke of all believers, but here he contrasted "we" and "you" (Ephesians 1:13). The "we" evidently refers to Jewish Christians and the "you" to Gentile believers, as the context suggests (Ephesians 1:12-13). Note the presence of "also" in both Ephesians 1:11; Ephesians 1:13 that provides continuity as well as marking discontinuity.
Some translators who rendered the Greek word eklerothemen "obtained an inheritance" (NASB) introduced the idea of the believer’s inheritance. The word really means "chosen" (NIV, lit. appointed or obtained by lot). God has chosen Jewish believers for salvation because He predestined them to have a part in His sovereign plan. Paul would say later that God’s plan for the present involves the church, which consists of both Jewish and Gentile believers (Ephesians 2:14-22). However, God chose the Jews first (cf. Acts 3:26; Romans 1:16).
This verse contains one of the strongest statements in Scripture that God is sovereign (cf. Psalms 115:3; Proverbs 16:9; Proverbs 16:33; Daniel 4:34-35). God is sovereign over all things. This includes the election of some people to salvation. "Purpose" (Gr. prothesin) refers to the goal God intends to accomplish. "Counsel" (Gr. boule) refers to God’s purpose or deliberation. "Will" (Gr. thelema) denotes willingness. The idea contained in this verse is that God chose a plan after deliberating on the wisest course of action to accomplish his purpose. [Note: B. F. Westcott, Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, p. 15; T. K. Abbott, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles to the Ephesians and to the Colossians, p. 20.]
How does God carry out His plan? He accomplishes some things directly and exclusively Himself without using other agents. He accomplishes other purposes through the agency of others, secondary causes, which include angels and humans. Unquestionably God is absolutely sovereign (i.e., the ultimate authority over all things). How He carries out His plans-working with secondary causes, giving people freedom to choose, and then justly holding them responsible for their choices-is difficult to understand and explain. [Note: See Basinger and Basinger for four explanations.] I believe the solution to this puzzle lies beyond the ability of human beings to understand and explain fully. However, Scripture clearly teaches both divine sovereignty and human responsibility. [Note: See the note in The New Scofield Reference Bible, p. 1273, for a clear, concise distinction between predestination and election. For a very helpful article on how prayer fits into the sovereign plan of God, see John Munro, "Prayer to a Sovereign God," Interest 56:2 (February 1990):20-21. See also Thomas L. Constable, Talking to God: What the Bible Teaches about Prayer, pp. 149-52.]
God chose Jews to be believers for the praise of His glory (cf. Ephesians 1:6). This verse shows that the Jews are the "we" in view in Ephesians 1:11. The Jews were the first to put their trust in Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 1:8; Acts 13:46; Acts 28:25; Romans 1:16; Romans 2:9-10).
The work of the Son in salvation was setting the sinner free from his or her sin and revealing God’s plan to head up all things in Christ at the end of the ages. This includes the salvation of Jewish believers.
In contrast to the Jews, who were the first to hope in Christ (Ephesians 1:12), Gentiles also had come to salvation when Paul wrote this epistle. The vehicle God uses to bring his elect to faith is the message of truth, namely, the gospel message, the good news of salvation. When Gentiles heard it, they listened to it and believed it. This resulted in their salvation and their sealing by the Holy Spirit. There are about 59 references to the Holy Spirit in Ephesians, one-fourth of the total references in the New Testament. The AV translation implies that the sequence is hearing, believing, and then sealing. However the sealing takes place at the same time as believing (cf. Acts 19:2). It is not a second or later work of grace.
When the Gentiles in view believed, God sealed them in Christ. This provided a guarantee of their eternal security. [Note: See Eldon Woodcock, "The Seal of the Holy Spirit," Bibliotheca Sacra 155:618 (April-June 1998):139-63; Robert G. Gromacki, Salvation is Forever; Michael Eaton, No Condemnation: A New Theology of Assurance.] Seals at the time Paul wrote indicated security (Matthew 27:66; Ephesians 4:30), authentication and approval (John 6:27), genuineness (John 3:33), and ownership (2 Corinthians 1:22; Revelation 7:2; Revelation 9:4). God seals the believer by giving him or her the indwelling Holy Spirit who keeps the Christian in Christ. The Jews incorrectly regarded circumcision as a seal of their salvation (Romans 4:11). The Lord Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would permanently indwell believers (Luke 24:49; John 14:16; John 15:26; John 16:13; Acts 1:5). That is evidently why Paul referred to Him as "the Holy Spirit of promise" (NASB).
"The arrabon [pledge, deposit, earnest, guarantee] was a regular feature of the Greek business world. The arrabon was a part of the purchase price of anything paid in advance as a guarantee that the rest of the price should in due time be paid." [Note: Barclay, p. 101.]
The Spirit seals all believers, not just Gentile believers. Though Paul addressed Gentile believers in particular in this verse, "you also" shows that what he said of them was also true of Jewish believers (cf. Ephesians 1:11). All the blessings that Paul spoke of become the possession of both Jewish and Gentile believers.
The seal of the Spirit 1:13-14
"God’s spiritual blessings for believers are based not only on the sovereign election of the Father (Ephesians 1:3-6) and the redemptive work of the Son (Ephesians 1:7-12), but also on the seal of the Holy Spirit." [Note: Hoehner, "Ephesians," p. 619.]
The Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence is a pledge of all that God will give us as His children. This pledge is not just a promise but the first part of our inheritance, the down payment, so to speak (cf. Genesis 38:17-20 LXX). The fact that we possess Him now (the "already" aspect of our salvation) assures us that the rest of our salvation (the "not yet" portion) will inevitably follow. An engagement ring is this kind of pledge.
"The content of the inheritance here is life in heaven with God." [Note: Joseph C. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings, p. 90.]
The redemption in view here (Gr. apolytrosin) is a different aspect of our salvation than the redemption mentioned in Ephesians 1:7. Here it is not release from sin’s guilt (Ephesians 1:7), but release from sin’s presence (cf. Romans 8:23; Philippians 3:20-21). In Ephesians 1:7, justification is in view, but here glorification is, the final aspect of our redemption. We experience redemption in three stages: we have been redeemed in Christ (Ephesians 1:7), we are being redeemed as the Spirit makes us more like Christ (Romans 8:1-4), and we shall be redeemed when Christ returns and we become sinless, as He is. God’s possession is the believer whom He has chosen (Ephesians 1:3-6), redeemed (Ephesians 1:7-12), and sealed (Ephesians 1:13-14) "to the praise of His glory" (cf. Ephesians 1:6; Ephesians 1:12; Ephesians 1:18). Another view is that the inheritance in Ephesians 1:11 as well as the possession in Ephesians 1:14 is the church. [Note: E.g., Stott, p. 47.] However, the context seems to be describing blessings that every individual Christian enjoys rather than blessings that God enjoys.
"This beautiful phrase needs to be unpacked. The glory of God is the revelation of God, and the glory of his grace is his self-disclosure as a gracious God. To live to the praise of the glory of his grace is both to worship him ourselves by our words and deeds as the gracious God he is, and to cause others to see and to praise him too." [Note: Ibid., p. 50.]
The nine spiritual blessings Paul identified in Ephesians 1:3-14 are election, predestination, adoption, grace, redemption, forgiveness, knowledge, sealing, and inheritance. Stott summarized them as three: past election, present adoption, and future unification. [Note: Ibid., p. 36.] The recurrence of the phrase "in Christ" and equivalent expressions emphasizes that all these blessings come with our union with our Savior (Ephesians 1:3-4; Ephesians 1:6-7; Ephesians 1:9-10; Ephesians 1:12-13 [twice]). Likewise the repetition of "His will" and its equivalents emphasizes that the sovereign God is responsible for all these blessings (Ephesians 1:5; Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 1:11). These verses (3-14) contain a compact statement of every believer’s spiritual riches. The passage is similar to a bank statement because it lists every Christian’s spiritual assets.
"We have been listening to an overture of the hallelujahs of the blest, and it closes, as it began, on the note of the praise of God’s glory, the highest of all themes. . . . False and true theology may be discriminated by a simple criterion. Do they magnify God or man?" [Note: Simpson, p. 36.]
In view of their spiritual blessings, Paul felt constrained to pray for his original readers. He could pray for them as he did because they were true believers. Even though God had greatly blessed them, they needed even more from God. In addition to informing them, Paul also interceded for them.
The apostle had personally witnessed the faith and love of the Ephesians five or six years earlier, but he had evidently received fresh reports of their recent condition. His statement also suggests that "you" may include other churches beside the one or ones located in Ephesus. Faith is the expression of the believer’s trust in God, our vertical relationship. Love is the evidence of his or her proper relationship with other people, our horizontal relationship (cf. Ephesians 6:23; Colossians 1:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:3).
As was his custom, Paul first commended his readers for what they were doing well. Then he told them what his prayer requests for them were.
2. The means: knowledge 1:15-23
Having reviewed his readers’ blessings in Christ, Paul next prayed that they would appreciate and appropriate these good things in their own lives. He moved from benediction to intercession. Ephesians 1:15-23 are one sentence in the Greek text, as are Ephesians 1:3-14. Intellectual understanding is one thing, but it is also important that we use this knowledge to come into intimate relationship with God. That is what Paul prayed for in this prayer.
"For a healthy Christian life today it is of the utmost importance to follow Paul’s example and keep Christian praise and Christian prayer together. Yet many do not manage to preserve this balance. Some Christians seem to do little but pray for new spiritual blessings, apparently oblivious of the fact that God has already blessed them in Christ with every spiritual blessing. Others lay such emphasis on the undoubted truth that everything is already theirs in Christ, that they become complacent and appear to have no appetite to know or experience their Christian privileges more deeply." [Note: Stott, p. 52.]
These qualities in his readers stimulated Paul to give thanks to God for their present condition and to petition Him for their present and future needs. He said he prayed for them repeatedly. [Note: See W. B. Pope, The Prayers of St. Paul.]
Paul returned to his concept of God as the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:3; cf. Matthew 6:9). He combined with this the idea that all glory belongs to the Father (Ephesians 1:6; Ephesians 1:12; Ephesians 1:14; cf. Acts 7:2; 1 Corinthians 2:8).
Paul asked God to give the Ephesians a spirit of wisdom and revelation. The spirit in view probably refers to an attitude rather than to the Holy Spirit, wisdom and revelation being the description of that attitude (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:21). They had already received the Holy Spirit. These attitudes become ours through the ministry of the Holy Spirit to us, however (cf. Isaiah 11:2). Wisdom (Gr. sophia, Ephesians 1:8; Ephesians 3:10) enables one to perceive reality accurately. Revelation is the unveiling of the subject contemplated, in this case God Himself. Wisdom by revelation is the idea (a hendiadys). Paul was evidently praying for a specific enablement by the Spirit so his readers would understand God’s mysteries. [Note: Hoehner, Ephesians, p. 256.]
"William Chillingworth said: ’The Bible, and the Bible only, is the religion of Protestants.’ That is true; but so often we would not think so. The exposition of scripture from the pulpit is a first necessity of religious wakening. We are interested, not in what a preacher thinks, but in what God says." [Note: Barclay, p. 105.]
The end in view was that the readers might gain greater knowledge of God. The Greek word translated "knowledge" (epignosis) refers to exact, complete, experiential knowledge, not just abstract knowledge of God or even facts about Him. [Note: Trench, pp. 268-69.] Paul wanted his readers to get to know God more intimately as their Father, to become closer friends with Him (cf. John 15:14).
"Growth in knowledge is indispensable to growth in holiness." [Note: Stott, p. 54.]
"The Christian life could be described as getting to know God better every day. A friendship which does not grow closer with the years tends to vanish with the years. And it is so with us and God." [Note: Barclay, p. 105.]
"To know God personally is salvation (John 17:3). To know Him increasingly is sanctification (Philippians 3:10). To know Him perfectly is glorification (1 Corinthians 13:9-12)." [Note: Wiersbe, 2:15.]
They would gain this greater knowledge as God would enlighten their understanding. The heart refers to the center of personality in the Bible, the whole inward self, comprising mind and emotion. The eyes of the heart, a vivid mixed metaphor, suggests not just intellectual understanding but total apprehension of God. In Hebrew thinking, which Paul employed, mixed metaphors enriched the thought rather than confusing it, as in English. [Note: See Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72, p. 151.]
The reason Paul prayed this prayer was three-fold. He wanted his readers to know (Gr. eidenai) factually three things. First, he wanted them to know the hope that was theirs because God had called them to salvation through election. Every Christian should appreciate his or her sure hope for the future that rests on his or her calling to salvation in the past.
Second, the readers needed to realize that they themselves would be an inheritance that God would receive when they went to be with Him. Paul spoke of the believer’s inheritance in Ephesians 1:14. Here he spoke of God’s inheritance. This inheritance will be valuable because believers are people for whom God paid dearly with the blood (death) of His own Son. It is glorious because when we see the Lord we will experience glorification, cleansing, and removal from sin (cf. Ephesians 1:6; Ephesians 1:17 for other glorious things).
Third, Paul wanted the Ephesians to know the great power of God that impacts the Christian.
"If God’s ’call’ looks back to the beginning, and God’s ’inheritance’ looks on to the end, then surely God’s ’power’ spans the interim period in between." [Note: Stott, p. 57.]
Power (Gr. dynamis) refers to a spiritually dynamic living force. "Working," "strength," and "might" or "mighty" further describe this power. These three words describe it as energetic, inherent in God, and able to overcome resistance respectively. This is the power of God that is available to believers.
"By making us His inheritance, God has shown His love. By promising us a wonderful future, He has encouraged our hope. Paul offered something to challenge our faith: ’the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe’ (Ephesians 1:19)." [Note: Wiersbe, 2:16.]
God manifested this power in Christ in three instances that Paul cited to help us appreciate it more. God’s power resurrected Jesus from the dead and exalted Him to God’s right hand in heaven. Jesus Christ’s present rule on His Father’s throne over the church is not the same as His rule on David’s throne over David’s kingdom. The first is present and heavenly, but the second is future and earthly. [Note: See Cleon L. Rogers Jr., "The Davidic Covenant in Acts-Revelation," Bibliotheca Sacra 151:601 (January-March 1994):81-82.] The same power is available to us now and is indispensable for us to live lives pleasing to God (cf. Philippians 3:10; Colossians 1:11).
Christ’s ascension has resulted in His exaltation over every other authority (cf. Colossians 1:16), human and angelic (cf. Philippians 2:8-11), present and future (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:23-28). The Jews believed angels controlled human destiny, but Paul saw Jesus Christ doing this. The rule, authority, power, and dominion in view are probably descriptions of evil angelic rulers. [Note: Hoehner, Ephesians, p. 279.]
The second manifestation of God’s power in Christ was the Father’s subjection of all things to Christ. Adam lost his lordship over creation when he sinned, but Jesus gained lordship over creation by His obedience (Ephesians 1:10; Romans 5:12-21). His lordship over creation will be obvious in the future when He reigns during the Millennium (Psalms 8:6; 1 Corinthians 15:27; Hebrews 2:6-8). [Note: See Donald R. Glenn, "Psalms 8 and Hebrews 2 : A Case Study in Biblical Hermeneutics and Biblical Theology," in Walvoord: A Tribute, p. 45.]
The third manifestation of God’s power in Christ is the Son’s appointment as Head over the church (cf. Ephesians 4:15; Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:18). This aspect of His lordship is evident now.
"There is given to the Church, and for the Church’s benefit, a Head who is also Head over all things. The church has authority and power to overcome all opposition because her Leader and Head is Lord of all." [Note: Foulkes, p. 65. See also Stephen Bedale, "The Meaning of kephale in the Pauline Epistles," Journal of Theological Studies NS5 (1954):211-15.]
Morris, however, took "the head" here, and in Ephesians 4:15, as "the beginning." [Note: Morris, p. 36.]
The church is both the body of Christ and the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way, namely, Jesus Christ. The church is the fullness of Christ probably in the sense that He fills for Himself (middle voice in Greek) the church with blessings (cf. Ephesians 4:10-11). Other views are that the church completes Christ, and that Christ fills the church with Himself. [Note: See Stott, pp. 61-64, or Hoehner, Ephesians, pp. 294-301, for discussions of the views.] Jesus Christ who fills all things with all things (i.e., with blessings) is filling the church with blessings. The church could not come into existence until Jesus Christ had ascended into heaven to become its head. [Note: See Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, "Israel and the Church," in Issues in Dispensationalism, p. 117.]
After showing that believers have received all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3-14), Paul prayed that believers might come to know God intimately (Ephesians 1:17). This is necessary so we might better appreciate our past calling to salvation that gives us hope (Ephesians 1:18), the future inheritance that we constitute for God (Ephesians 1:18), and the present power of God available to us (Ephesians 1:19). God manifested this power in the past in Christ’s resurrection and ascension (Ephesians 1:20-21). He will manifest it in the future by making Jesus Christ the head over all creation (Ephesians 1:22). He is now manifesting this power in Jesus Christ’s headship over the church (Ephesians 1:22-23).
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ephesians 1". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/
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